Divestment in fossil fuels – questions asked at General Synod

Published: Tuesday February 14, 2023

While General Synod has mostly been in the news for the LLF discussions, it was not the only item of business. Questions about divestment in fossil fuels, arising from our Diocesan Synod commitment, were also asked.

In November 2022, the Diocese of Gloucester made a commitment that we will not invest in fossil fuels. While this didn’t commit us to immediate financial change, as the central Church of England funds where our investments are held are currently fossil fuel free, we wanted to make it clear that this is an ethical commitment rather than a primarily financial decision.

Part of the Diocesan Synod debate was about asking at General Synod for a similar clear commitment, that the funds where we are invested will not reinvest in fossil fuels. As a result, this question was asked at General Synod by the Revd Canon Katrina Scott, as one of our members of the House of Clergy, acting on our behalf:

With increasing numbers of dioceses making disinvestment commitments as a response to the climate crisis, have the Church Commissioners entered into any discussions with CCLA to confirm that funds held with them will remain disinvested from fossil fuels on ethical, theological and spiritual grounds, in their current five-year plan and beyond? 

A written response was received from Alan Smith, replying as First Church Estates Commissioner.

Katrina says, “[This response] lacked the clarity that we had hoped for, so we responded with a supplemental question:

Given that dioceses, like ours in Gloucester, are committed to disinvestment from fossil fuels, can the Church Commissioners give us any reassurance or any support to ensure that our funds invested in CCLA will remain disinvested?”

Alan’s response to Katrina’s supplementary question was that:

  • ‘Church Commissioners are accountable to Synod in the direction that you have given us and we are working on that for the July meeting;
  • with regards to the Church Commissioners’ involvement in CCLA, actually we ourselves don’t invest in CCLA, but we walk very closely with them around ethical investment policies and have a very thoughtful discussion and they are as equally committed to the guidance.’

Katrina says, “While this is not a certain commitment, it felt like a positive commitment to wanting to be in the same direction.”

Cate Williams, Environmental Engagement Officer at the Diocese of Gloucester, adds, “It is reassuring that we have been given clarity that the ongoing conversations about investments are taking General Synod’s net zero commitment as a guiding principle, with this due to come up for debate in General Synod in July.”

At the Diocese of Gloucester, we remain committed to both the specific goal of being carbon net zero by 2030, as well as broader concerns related to care of God’s creation.

The two main ways for local churches to engage are:

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